Friday, 3 April 1998

Kindlng Does For Firewood AND Hoaxes & Jokeses, April 3, 1998

 La Mama - Melbourne International Comedy Festival 1998

Kindling Does for Firewood, April 1, 1-19, 1998
Hoaxes and Jokeses: A Language Sandwich by Rodney Marks April 3-19, 1998
Reviewed by Kate Herbert on or around April 2, 1998

No one could say that the Comedy Festival lacks variety: in laugh value, style, content and quality. The two shows gestured at La Mama for the festival epitomise this eclecticism.

Rodney Marks is a Sydney-based professional hoaxer similar to Melbourne's Campbell McComas. He does the conference circuit, practical-joking for corporate bucks. At one conference he sacked the whole company leaving employees weeping and jobless. At Harvard, he played a new Dean, who had no reaction to plans to decimate the rights of every minority group but all hell broke loose when he threatened to merge the Business school with another

In another hoax he was billed as a resident psychiatrist, garnering plenty of wacko material until a distressed couple revealed a grotesque murder in the family. Marks came clean with his true identity and enlisted them as allies in the hoax. Phew!

 Marks is a masterly raconteur. He sits comfortably wearing a funny tie and braces, spinning yarns about his series of failed arts management positions, his attempt to change his life with more education and three degrees in Theatre Business and Government.

In his quiet laconic way, he creates a 'language sandwich', testing the audience with word-teasers, latin references and convoluted narratives.

The inspired element setting it apart from other yarnspinners, is the totally random components which rely heavily on improvisation and the audience 'owning' the show. He places a timer on stage. To break the pattern, interrupt boredom, punctuate stories and distract us, we were given roles.

 At regular intervals, people were designated to throw a ball across the space or improvise a time call. The audience choices become part of the show. One young man stood up, tipped the clock on its face and, in an instant, we had subversive Post-Modernism.

Marks' show is mild, unpredictable and funny. The same cannot be said for Kindling does for Firewood. Actors Anita Butler and Bruce Edwards adapted this wordy script from Rodney King's 1995 Vogel award winning novel.

The text converts slabs of prose into interminable onstage narration. Smart dialogue works on occasion but the poor, one-note acting, clunky design and non-direction of the piece makes it almost unbearable. Without the layering, style or theatrical form to support them, King's rough 90's youthful characters become unsympathetic and his language almost offensive.

This is an unfortunate addition to the La Mama Comfest program. Better to simply read the book


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